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School Officials Move to Protect Students

Longfellow principal Vincent Lynch made a “cautiously-worded” announcement on Monday to tell students at the McLean middle school why security was being tightened.

“We did made an announcement because we wanted students to understand why we were making the security arrangements that we were,” Lynch said.

"I emphasized there was no evidence of problems in this area, but we wanted to play extra safe.

“I had a few students who asked questions, but for the most part, I think students did feel safe,” Lynch said.

After he heard about the shooting, Lynch also e-mailed Fairfax County Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Alan Leis. Last spring, the number of school resource officers was reduced at schools that were considered low in the number of incidents they reported.

“We have a half-time school resource officer, shared with Cooper Middle School,” Lynch said. But in response to his e-mail, “They arranged for another police officer to be present at dismissal. It turned out there were two officers here at dismissal time.”

Lynch said security at Longfellow has been enhanced because of the latest in a series of shootings in Maryland, where the victim Monday was a middle-school student.

“I’d rather not discuss the specific security measures we are taking, but we have instituted several additional measures beyond what we normally do,” he said.

“The exterior doors are locked, and there is adult supervision at the two doors where students go back and forth [between the school and the adjacent modular classrooms].

“We are changing our morning arrival and afternoon dismissal operations a bit, so students are not waiting outside the school,” he said.

AT COOPER MIDDLE SCHOOL in McLean, school events transpired normally on Monday despite the shooting in Bowie, Md. No announcement was made to students during the day, and classes continued as usual.

Despite the sunny, warm Indian summer weather, no classes were held outdoors.

Cooper principal Arlene Randall was not available for comment, but Jan Auerbach, president of the Safe Community Coalition, said “Honesty is the best policy [with children]. You don’t keep it from the kids,” she said, especially when they are kept inside on a beautiful day.

“Whoever is doing this has got some real mental problems,” said Auerbach said. “I am not sure [s]he is distinguishing between adults and kids.

“We’ve always had people who’ve gone off the deep end,” she said. “Is it happening more frequently? I don’t know. It is more public?” she said.

Asked what was the first thought that came to his mind when he heard about the Bowie shooting, Langley High School principal Bill Clendaniel said, “I just thought, ‘There but for the grace of God ….’

“They’ve got to catch this guy,” he said. “Today was the first day I thought it affected our students.” Many of them commented to him about the shooting during the day he said. About the events, Clendaniel said, “They are a little more aware. They are looking around a parking lot” when they walk across it, he said.

Langley changed its morning and afternoon arrival procedure on Tuesday, requiring that cars dropping off and picking up students go to the rear of the school, rather than the front.

A HOMECOMING BONFIRE that had been planned for a softball field at Marshall High School was canceled Tuesday after Fairfax County Public Schools officials canceled all evening outdoor activities that could not be moved inside for the second day.

“We are very disappointed, because we were all geared up for the bonfire,” said Leslie Butz, the principal.

“We will continue on a day-by-day basis with our homecoming plans.”

She said school security at Marshall was stepped up after the Oct. 7 shooting.

“We moved all students inside for health and PE classes and for lunch,” Butz said.

“Security [officers] and the school resource officer [Fairfax County Police Officer Tom Harrington] were extra-vigilant during arrival and dismissal,” said Butz.

“We are in constant communication with the Fairfax County Police Department. They have also stepped up their surveillance of Fairfax County Public Schools,” she said.

BY COINCIDENCE, THE SAFE Community Coalition’s annual reception for school principals, assistant principals and guidance counselors in the McLean and Langley pyramids was held at the McLean Community Center on the day of the Bowie school shooting.

The event is designed to improve communication among schools and parents in the community. Cafe Oggi in McLean donated light refreshments for the event, Auerbach said.

The SCC plans programs to address community concerns about drugs, alcohol, appropriate dress, behavior and violence.